By Jose Rojas
Protesters interrupted the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Campus Student Center to make their demands for a resource center for AB540 and undocumented students heard on Thursday.
Protesters gathered in front of Helen Miller Bailey Library in solidarity with undocumented who are demanding a resource center.
They were moved by Los Angeles County Sheriff Department to the Free Speech Area.
The peaceful protest was organized by the Students for Equal Rights Club, a student club at East Los Angeles College committed to providing support and advocating for undocumented students.
SER and other organizations like MECHA can be seen on campus collecting signatures in support of a resource center for undocumented students.
SER is demanding an undocumented and AB540 student resource center that will help empower them to achieve their educational goals, overcome legal and financial obstacles and achieve their long-term goals.
According to SER, every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools, and only five to ten percent of these graduates go onto higher education.
California is home to 38,000 of these students of which 34,000 enroll in community colleges.
Many of these students don’t achieve their goals of transferring to a four-year university or graduating from ELAC because of the lack of support they receive from the campus’ centers, they say.
SER wants a resource center for undocumented students, where legal services, tutoring, motivational counseling, research opportunities on immigration issues, student retention programs, personal and professional development can be provided to them.
“An undocumented resource center will provide undocumented students with the opportunity to have a centralized space that will provide them with the adequate resources and information needed to navigate the educational system and to prepare them before transferring to a four-year institution.” SER member Yadira Hernandez said.
Many students complain that ELAC’s goal is to help its students to succeed and to graduate and to transfer to a four-year university.
However, some undocumented students feel that the faculty lacks knowledge about the issues that undocumented students face or are not well prepared to help the undocumented students to achieve their education goals.
According to SER and other students, there are multiple cases and multiple stories where students go to financial aid or to the counseling office to seek help and they are sent to other centers where it has nothing to do with them.
“Unfortunately, the services we have on campus, such as financial aid and counseling still lack the particular knowledge and services needed for undocumented students regarding their immigration status and this makes it difficult for the staff to properly guide undocumented students,” said SER member Marina Cazarez.
“One day, my friend went to the Transfer Center to get information about scholarship for AB540 students and what universities he can apply (to) as (an) AB540 student, and they sent him the Veteran Services office,”said student Manuel Cruz.
SER believes it is also important to keep into account that new bills and legislations that affect and benefit undocumented students are updating constantly.
ELAC needs someone special and dedicated to this center who will be able to keep up with all the updated information available for undocumented students and will be responsible to share the knowledge and ensure the adequate implementation of these legislations on our campus, SER said.
“Therefore, a resource center designed specifically for the unique needs of undocumented students regarding their immigration status is necessary to help them succeed in a community college because it will allow them to get familiar with the various resources available for them,” said Marina Cazares, member of SER.